Experimental pain models are frequently used to understand the influence of pain on the control of human movement. In this systematic review, we assessed the effects of experimentally induced pain in the lumbar region of healthy individuals on trunk muscle activity and spine kinematics. Databases were searched from inception up to 31st January 2022. In total, 26 studies using either hypertonic saline injection (n=19), heat thermal stimulation (n=3), nociceptive electrical stimulation (n=3), or capsaicin (n=1) were included. The identified adaptations were task-dependent, and their heterogeneity was partially explained by the experimental pain model adopted. Meta-analyses revealed an increase of erector spinae activity (standardized mean difference=0.71, 95% confidence interval [CI]=0.22 to 1.19) during full trunk flexion and delayed onset of transversus abdominis to postural perturbation tasks (mean difference=25.2 ms, 95% CI=4.09 to 46.30) in the presence of pain. Low quality of evidence supported an increase of activity of the superficial lumbar muscles during locomotion and during voluntary trunk movements during painful conditions. In contrast, activity of erector spinae, deep multifidus, and transversus abdominis was reduced during postural perturbation tasks. Reduced range of motion of the lumbar spine in the presence of pain was supported by low quality of evidence. Given the strong agreement between our findings and the adaptations observed in clinical populations, the use of experimental pain models may help to better understand the mechanisms underlying motor adaptations to low back pain.
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